Why Always Trumps How To

Yesterday I read this article at Seth Godin’s Blog. Seth Godin is the author of numerous business and management books. Never really knew much about the guy until I started hearing about his 6 month Alternative MBA program. Anyway, in his post he draws out the hierarchy of success: Attitude –> Approach –> Goals –> Strategy –> Tactics –> Execution and how most businesses and people spend time on Execution but not enough time on Attitude and Approach. How can I have have more money? How can I lose 10 pounds? How can I get As? Obviously, these are all great questions to ask. The problem is they cannot sustain our actions. It’s not a surprise that when there’s a great best-selling idea in the market, people try it for 1 – 2 weeks, then give up. When the next next idea comes up, people jump on that bandwagon again. Why? Maybe the method is the problem. Perhaps, yet an even deeper question is even if the method is intact, is it the right thing for me to do?

I remember when I first began working out because my friend would always tell me to work out with him. He was a very muscular guy and loved going to the gym and talked about it all the time. It became contagious so I would tag along with him and try to learn the tricks of the trade. After about 2 weeks of lifting, I would be disillusioned and would go back to being a hermit at the library once more. This would happen once a quarter.  I would be excited to work out again, but my reason for going to the gym was never strong enough to overcome the difficulty of the situation. I had a high metabolism, so I wasn’t doing it for the weight. I didn’t care about bulking up and I hadn’t seen a difference in 2 weeks (naïve I know) so what was the point?

Then it hit me! (“Eureka!” said Archimedes)


No matter how high my metabolism was, it didn’t mean I was healthy. I still couldn’t run hard on the soccer field for more than 3 minutes without getting winded and bent over. I couldn’t do more than 20 pushups at a time. Basically, even though I looked fit, I just wasn’t. So my attitude changed from wanting to look like my friend to I need to improve my overall physical health. It didn’t mean that it made it easier for me to go to the gym often; I still didn’t like running or any cardio activities. The difference was now my reason held up to the rigors of what I was doing. When I felt too tired to exercise, I thought about the idea of not being able to run around with the kids or being sick due to high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

In connection to this same article, Dan Pink (Al Gore’s former speech writer) delivered the talk below on TED (TED is a really great site of entertaining speakers sharing ideas. There’s a lot of amazing stuff there to check out at your own leisure)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A direct link to the video is here

The relevant point (as far as this post goes) is at the end where he mentions that there are 3 reasons that motivate us to do things

  • Autonomy – The urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery – The desire to be better at something that matters
  • Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

One or a combination of these is what governs our attitudes and actions towards the physical, spiritual, financial, intellectual and social aspects of our lives. However I am finding that execution only succeeds when the attitude is right and strong enough to hold up to this execution.


Image courtesy of Physics Department Weber State University


One response to this post.

  1. […] Money, like time, if not planned wisely often trickles into the areas of life which don’t rank high on the priority list. Therefore establishing a plan is important, but more important is that it should be your own plan. When the created plan is yours and based on your values, you’re more prone or at least have a stronger desire to follow it. […]


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